The Lutheran Archives Center at Philadelphia
Staff: John E. Peterson, Curator
Kim-Eric Williams, Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod Archivist
Read the Archives Advocate
Lutheran Archives Center at Philadelphia is the Northeast Regional Archives (Region 7) for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). It is a part of a network of nine regional archives programs and a national level (churchwide) archives in the ELCA. Our service area is limited to Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Upstate New York (excluding the Metropolitan New York City area) and New England. We carry on the work of our predecessors in the first Lutheran Church organization in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States, founded on August 15, 1748 by Henry Melchior Muhlenberg. The archives was recognized as a part of the church organization in 1792.
The Archives has been housed on the campus of the Philadelphia Seminary since 1889, and is located in the undercroft of The Brossman Learning Center. The Archives collections are now completely contained in a large vault area with compact shelving, now better organized. A reference library room provides books frequently used, as well as space for researchers to work in comfortable surroundings. The Archives office is across the hall. The seminary has provided the new space for the present and the future.
- Lutheran Archives Center holds a large number of collections of personal papers of Lutheran clergy, theologians and church workers. Examples include: from the 18th century, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg and Justus Henry Christian Helmuth; from the 19th century, Charles Porterfield Krauth, William Julius Mann and Beale Melancthon Schmucker; and from the 20th century, Henry Eyster Jacobs, Sr., Charles Michael Jacobs, Jr., O. Frederick Nolde, Theodore G. Tappert, Martin J. Heinecken and John H. P. Reumann. Personal papers are generally most useful to academic researchers studying specific topics in church history or theology.
Archives of Church Organizations Lutheran Archives Center holds the archives of the following Lutheran synods and church bodies:
- Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States; 1748-1962
- Eastern Pennsylvania Synod, LCA, 1963-1968
- Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, LCA and ELCA; 1968-present
- Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod, LCA and ELCA; 1968-present
- New Jersey Synod, ULCA, LCA & ELCA; 1950-present
- Upstate New York Synod, LCA & ELCA; 1966-present
- New England Synod, LCA & ELCA, 1963-present
- Augustana Lutheran Church, New York Conference; 1870-1962
- Augustana Lutheran Church, New England Conference, 1912-1962
- The General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America, 1866-1918. Synod archives document the history of the church organizations and their varied ministries. They are most useful to historians and academic researchers in church history.
Records of Congregations
- The archives holds records from two groups of congregations in its service area: those which have closed; and those which are active and have chosen to deposit their records, or copies thereof, in the archives for more efficient access by researchers. The vast majority of Lutheran congregations maintain their own records and researchers must contact the congregations directly for information. The organizational records of a congregation, including minutes and reports, legal documents, photos, etc., are most useful for congregations and local historians.
- The parish registers of congregations contain, in chronological sequence, the records of pastoral acts performed by the pastors of the congregation (baptisms, marriages, funerals, confirmations). These records are useful for individuals, family historians and genealogists. Very few of these records have been indexed, however, and many of the 18th and 19th century registers are written in German. Researchers are welcome to use these records for research. We can provide information regarding records we hold, and information on how to contact congregations.
Access and Fees
Lutheran Archives Center is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, 1 to 4 p.m., by appointment. Telephone calls are taken ONLY during these hours. Because of time and financial limitations, we CANNOT respond by telephone to any voice mail telephone messages.
We welcome readers to visit us and conduct their own research. It is best to inform us when you plan to visit so we can provide efficient service. Hours other than the regular schedule can be arranged when necessary if contact is made well in advance.
The fee for on-site genealogical research is $10.00 per day. Photocopies under staff supervision are available at prevailing rates. We are able to offer research services at $35.00 per hour. We generally limit searches to three hours and require that sufficient information be available to create a high probability of a successful search.
Additional Sources of Information
For information on congregations and records in the following areas, please consult the indicated archives:
For Metropolitan New York City and Surrounding New York Counties
- John R. Daggan, Archivist
Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA
281 Oakland Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10310
For Central Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Metropolitan Washington DC
- ELCA Region 8 Archives
A. R. Wentz Library
Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg
66 Seminary Ridge
Gettysburg, PA 17325-4325
For Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Western Maryland
- Sarah (Sally) Roth
75 College Avenue
Greenville PA 16125
For the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
- Concordia Historical Institute
801 DeMun Avenue
St. Louis MO 63105-3199
For information on other Lutheran archives throughout the United States and beyond, consult the ELCA Churchwide Archives web site at www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/History/ELCA-archives.aspx
For other Pennsylvania family history resources, see
- The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (please note that the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania is now housed on the second floor of the HSP building)
Many thanks to Bob Fisher, ministrylink.org, for providing updated material